Florida Court Explains Sentencing in Homicide Cases

First-degree murder is one of the most serious crimes the State can charge a person with, and a conviction has the potential to result in a death sentence. Generally, the State must prove that certain aggravating factors were present during the commission of a homicide crime for a person to be sentenced to death. The State’s burden in seeking the death penalty was the topic of a recent Florida opinion in a case in which the defendant appealed his death sentence after following first-degree murder convictions. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is critical to speak to a seasoned Tampa criminal defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.

The Trial and Sentencing

It is reported that the defendant and the victim, his ex-girlfriend, were estranged, and the defendant was subject to a restraining order that prohibited him from contacting the victim. He suspected that she was dating another man, and he ransacked her home while she was out. She called the police but declined to press charges. The following day, he attended a hearing on another criminal matter, then called the victim and spoke to her for several minutes.

Allegedly, the defendant then proceeded to buy ammunition, travel to the victim’s home, and shot the victim and one of her friends who was in the home with her. He attempted to shoot her boyfriend and another friend as well. He was charged with and convicted of multiple first-degree murder crimes and sentenced to death for each murder. He appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in instructing om and finding the murder was committed in a calculated, cold, and premeditated matter which constituted an aggravating factor and lead to his death sentence.

Aggravating Factors Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, in order to demonstrate the calculated, cold, and premeditated aggravating factor, a homicide must have been the result of a calm and cool reflection and not an act brought about by a panic, fit of rage, or emotional reaction. The defendant must also have a thought-out plan or design to commit the killing before the fatal event, and he or she must show enhanced premeditation. Finally, no moral or legal justification for the crime can exist.

In matters in which a defendant appeals a finding that a murder was calculated, cold, and premeditated, the appellate court will merely assess whether the trial court correctly applied the law and, if so, whether the evidence of record is sufficient to support the finding. Here, the court found that, based on the circumstances as a whole, the evidence substantially supported the finding that the murders were committed in a calculated, cold, and premeditated manner. Thus, the defendant’s sentence was affirmed.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

Many violent crimes carry significant penalties, and it is vital for anyone charged with first-degree murder or another homicide to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. If you are accused of committing a criminal offense, the knowledgeable Tampa attorneys of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Hanlon Law via the form online or by calling 813-228-7095 to schedule a conference.